The Gift of Education
Entrepreneur Pete Kadens ’00 helps Toledo teens advance to college
by Brooke Thames

Pete Kadens ’00 believes that to whom much is given, much is expected. The political science major admits that he didn’t find his way to Bucknell by way of intellect or talent alone but, in large part, because of the opportunities he was afforded. Now, as a businessman who retired after founding three highly profitable companies in the sales, solar and legal marijuana industries, Kadens feels a responsibility to pay his success forward.

In January, Kadens visited a high school in his hometown, Toledo, Ohio, pledging to pay full college tuition, room and board, book fees and other costs for 108 seniors. He also promised to fund one parent of each Scott High School student to attend college or trade school. It’s a donation that will total approximately $3 million.

But he doesn’t consider this offer a gift so much as a duty, he says.

Pete Kadens ’00 hopes his donation provides inspiration for fellow Bucknellians to give back.
Photo: Courtesy of Green Thumb Industries
Pete Kadens ’00 hopes his donation provides inspiration for fellow Bucknellians to give back.

“I got to Bucknell because I was lucky enough to grow up as a wealthier kid with educated parents who propelled me to higher education,” says Kadens, who graduated from Toledo’s predominantly white, upper-middle class Ottawa Hills High School. “But those resources aren’t often afforded to someone who doesn’t look like me and doesn’t have access to the privilege I had.

“I decided it was my responsibility to give others access,” he adds. “It seemed like the best place to start was at a high school in my hometown, where I knew the kids were as smart, capable and hardworking as I was, but just didn’t have the same opportunities.”

One of those kids was a deaf student Kadens met who can now enroll at a local college, where his mother can also earn a degree while serving as her son’s sign-language interpreter.

Kadens hopes that his donation provides inspiration to fellow Bucknellians — “the spark that starts the brush fire,” he says.

“We were so fortunate to have an amazing educational experience at Bucknell,” Kadens says. “The best thing we can do is open doors to that same opportunity. It doesn’t have to be a whole senior class. Helping just one student get to college makes an impact.”